I have the rare distinction of liking my dentist. He’s good to me- and he takes care of my teeth without causing (undo) pain. He’s come to expect me to ask a huge number of questions- to the point where he’ll give me a mirror so I can watch what he’s doing in my mouth. Let’s say he humors my curiosity.

One of the things I like about my dentist is that he’s up to date with his tech. Though I’d love for him to have a new 3d modeling system and milling machine to make ceramic crowns on the spot, I can accept that the six digit price tag might be out of his reach. Besides that, though, he’s doing things right. My fillings are a two-part white epoxy. My crown is a porcelain sculpted bit. He cures adhesives with UV light. It’s pretty neat.

It’s not at all like the dentist that my parents went to at my age.

My dentist has kept up with changes in technique and tools. He doesn’t complain to me about having to learn about the new light-curing epoxies. Or about the new high-speed drills. Or about the digital xrays he now takes. Not a single complaint- in fact, he’s pretty enthusiastic about the stuff in our conversations. He’s not overly fond of the old ways.

And the reason he doesn’t complain is his understanding that if he didn’t keep up to date with the new tech, he would have no customers. Nobody is going to go to a dentist that still uses drills for 1940. Nobody is going to have fillings done like they were in 1970. Nobody wants a root canal from 1980.

Yet in the teaching world, every new change is greeted by calls for PD or “change of conditions” negotiations. Resistance to the new is the norm. Change is something to be avoided. The schools, however, are still full. Our customers still arrive every morning.

What if they had the choice? What if students, like me and my dentist, could choose who to see? Could make a choice, teacher by teacher, school by school, district by district about what sort of service they wanted? What would education look like then?